When I reflect on my first few years of practice, I sometimes wonder how I ever succeeded. Now, with 35 years of fee-for-service private practice experience behind me, I realize I’ve learned a few things. Indeed, it has become my passion to shorten the learning curve for today’s young practitioners. It’s my sincere hope that you find the following commentary helpful!
- Understand Your Software
Dentists traditionally rely on their business staff to perform the day-to-day operations required by the practice, and either skip software training or fail to use it enough to really understand and benefit from it. Additionally, not knowing your software limits its usefulness to the practice owner (particularly with regard to practice statistics) and leaves you wide open to embezzlement.
- Know Your Practice Numbers and What They Tell You About Your Business
At the very least, calculate your break-even point so you can plan for profitability. Use a financial software program like Quickbooks and enter each month’s practice expenses by category to create an operating statement. Then, compare your monthly practice expenses to a table of “best practice averages” to determine your strengths and weaknesses, and then make adjustments as needed.
- Recognize What Business Cycle Your Practice is In
Understanding whether your business is growing or plateauing significantly impacts your practice reinvestment decisions. Issues of capacity must be recognized and understood in order to resolve them. Does the practice need an enhanced facility, additional equipment or team members, or some combination of the three? Will the monthly investment to expand capacity to grow the practice be less than ten per cent of the monthly gross?
- Invest in Team Training
Not only do dentists traditionally fail to spend money to give advanced training to their employees, they often hire candidates with “experience” because they don’t know how to train them in the first place! It’s critically important that the doctor realizes that he or she is only as good as their team! Every employee should have software and job-specific training with DVDs and manuals, or clinical protocols and materials manipulation, plus cross-training before they ever go “live” with a patient. Numerous resources are available for in-house training. Use them!
- Time Your Procedures
Research conducted by Futuredontics indicates that being seen on time largely impacts whether a patient will or will not return. Time your most common procedures to determine how long they typically take. Use software with 10-minute intervals in the appointment book for greatest flexibility. Add an additional unit or two of time when working on a particularly challenging patient, or for a difficult procedure. Finally, always keep an empty operatory for that patient-of-record that must be worked in for an emergency, or for that hard-to-numb patient that always requires extra chair time.
- Start Every Day With a Team Pre-Treatment Conference or Huddle
Much of the day’s success will be determined by the information and energy shared between team members regarding the day’s patients. Are we seeing someone new? What do we know about them? Is anyone being seen in hygiene with incomplete treatment? If so, why? Is it financial or insurance driven, or did we fail to create value for our recommended care? Will anyone go to hygiene from treatment? Will they be numb or have a temporary? Is anyone having a birthday or special event? Is there a practice Facebook opportunity today?
- Schedule the Morning’s Production to Meet or Exceed Overhead by Lunchtime
If 82 percent of production after overhead is met, it goes to the bottom line. Treatment plan quadrant dentistry for two patients each morning, and watch your profitability soar!
- Check Your End-of-Day Report Every Day
Verify that the deposit and day sheet match. Do your own banking and pay your own bills, or delegate those tasks to your spouse. If you delegate, pay your spouse, as that lowers your federal tax liability, and keeps wealth in your family.
- Update a Personal Financial Statement Annually
Do this at the same time each year to give yourself a “global” view of your financial progress. Doing so will help you balance practice versus family decisions. Do we buy another digital sensor for hygiene, or finally put in the family pool?
- Educate Your Spouse
If your spouse does not work in the practice, ensure that he or she knows the management software, all user IDs and passwords, and has signature access to all business accounts. Consider establishing a relationship with a transition specialist early in your career, or adding a codicil to your will to protect the practice and your loved ones in the event of an untimely death.
Good luck, and best wishes for your continued success!!